Translational Immune Modulation in Cancer Therapy Research Group

German version

The majority of lung cancers continues to be refractory to specific treatment strategies until today, despite the development targeted therapies for certain subtypes. Currently, increased response rates of lung cancers are observed when treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors rearousing the patient´s own adaptive anti-tumor immunity. However, only a minority of patients with lung cancer responds yet, and it is highly likely that application of multimodal therapy is required to tackle lung cancer.

Our group is specifically interested in deciphering the underlying mechanisms of therapeutic immunomodulation in the tumor microenvironment. We investigate the effects of targeted radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunomodulatory agents, and small molecules on tumor-infiltrating immune cells. Our research focusses on the mechanisms of T cell reactivation and the targeted inhibition of neutrophil infiltration. Ultimately, the findings from our experiments serve to develop new synergistic therapeutic options in mouse models, which will help clinicians to design informed patient-tailored clinical studies for rapid translation in the human setting.

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Dr. Grit Herter-Sprie studied Medicine in Freiburg, Germany, from 2001-2008. She completed parts of her clinical training in Stockholm (Sweden), Sydney (Australia), Paris (France), New York (USA), and Johannesburg (South Africa). In 2008, she gained her medical doctorate degree working in the research laboratory of Prof. Hans-Georg Koch (Head: Prof. Matthias Müller) at the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Freiburg, Germany.

In 2009, Dr. Herter-Sprie entered the Medical Residency Program in the Department of Internal Medicine I of the University Hospital Cologne under the direction of Prof. Hallek. She joined Prof. Christian Reinhardt’s laboratory at the Cologne Center for Genomics to work as a postdoctoral researcher (2010-2012). Dr. Herter-Sprie generated a Cdkn1aSUPER mouse, which serves as a reporter for cell-cycle regulatory Tp53 signaling outputs. In this work, she was able to show that Cdkn1aSUPER mice have a cancer protection phenotype (Cell Reports, 2018).

Starting in 2012, Dr. Herter-Sprie moved to the laboratory of Prof. Kwok-Kin Wong at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. Here, Dr. Herter-Sprie primarily focussed on the development of a preclinical lung cancer mouse model platform for the application of state-of-the-art image-based radiotherapy for the evaluation of radio-immune combination therapies (Nature Communications, 2014, and Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, 2016). She also participated in numerous projects that included the preclinical testing of new antineoplastic agents for the treatment of lung cancer.In 2015, Dr. Herter-Sprie returned to the Department of Internal Medicine I, Hematology and Oncology, at the University of Cologne. Since 2019, she leads the „Translational Immune Modulation in Cancer Therapy Research Group“, which is funded as a "Career Advancement Program (CAP) Group" of the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC). Her research focusses on the effectiveness of targeted combination therapies for lung cancer treatment. She is particularly interested in deciphering the underlying mechanisms of T cell reactivation as well as options of targeted inhibition of neutrophil infiltration in the tumor microenvironment, and to use these in a therapeutic manner.

Research focuses

  • Development of targeted treatment approaches in mouse models
  • Immune modulation of the tumor microenvironment for cancer therapy
  • Identification of synergistic mechanisms for combination therapy in lung cancer
  • Pathogenesis of non-small-cell (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

  • Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) – German Research Foundation
  • Sonderforschungsbereich (SFB) der DFG 1399 – Collaborative Research Center of the German Research Foundation 1399 – Mechanisms of drug sensitivity and resistance in small cell lung cancer
  • Career Advancement Program (CAP) Group - Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC)
  • Medical Faculty, University of Cologne:
    • Gusyk position
    • Köln Fortune Program


Sabrina Weil PhD, postdoc
Carlos Carvajal Fraile, technician

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